January // I write a letter to Sarah. I don’t send it for another ten months.
Otis Redding sung me down into London with a voice like tears. I found him on the aeroplane’s playlist called ‘Western Pop: The Latest Pop from the World’s Biggest Stars.’ Also on the list were Bette Midler, Duran Duran and a group called ‘Purity Ring’. London appeared like a ring of candles encircling the horizon. Otis purred to Old Man Trouble.
In the town I’m staying in, there is a statue with its head and half its chest lopped off. My sister guesses casually that it may be the work of Cromwell’s men. Now it stands guard outside the Pizza Express. History is so visible here. Even the violent, ugly parts.
February // I wander into a museum, tucked inside a university in London.
It is one of those working museums, with desks pushed up against glass cabinets and the notes of students and researches covering every surface not already covered with Eygtian relics. I find the coffin of a woman named Nairytisitnefer. Written on a piece of paper beside it is a translation of the hieroglyphics craved into it. The paper says that these were words spoken by Nairytisitnefer, who was true of voice. She said this: that she got her heart from the house of hearts and her soul from the house of souls but that “the mind of Nairytisitnefer belongs to her, and she is content with it.” I loved that.
Back in Australia, my mother walks up on stage to collect the Jill Blewett award on my behalf from the Premier of South Australia.
March // I give up counting.
Usually I count how many times I sleep without medication, times I see a doctor, shows I see, times I cry, people I kiss, books I read, scripts I read, productions I worked on. By March I was already too tired to count.
This month I call 65 passionate young people and tell them they will not be a part of Slaughterhouse Five. I call 10 and tell them they will be.
April // I’m walking down an empty corridor and then it is no longer empty.
Three meters away, a young woman turns a corner and we see each other. Our eyes meet for a millisecond, we avert our gazes, both say ‘sorry’ and walk on. After, it occurs to me that this is perhaps the most female interaction ever: None of this myth about women competitively judging each other with a glance. This is women: We share a space for a moment, make no physical or emotional contact, mutually apologies for our presence in this corridor/world and walk on.
May // We are working on the final scene of Slaughterhouse Five.
It’s the first time we’ve looked at it so I’ve asked the actors to bring in something it made them think of. We go out onto the lawn, sitting in a slightly lopsided circle to make space for Liam’s wheelchair, and this beautiful group of young people respond to a massacre, 71 years old. We pass around print outs of paintings, people read poems from their iphones and I play Lark Ascending by Vaughan Williams and from The Singing Tree, by Kate Seredy. Then we read the final scene of Slaughterhouse Five.
And somewhere in there was springtime. The corpse mines were closed down. The soldiers all left to fight the Russians. In the suburbs, the women and children dug rifle pits. We were locked up in the stable in the suburbs. They left us there. We ate the hay. And then, one morning, we got up to discover that the door was unlocked. The Second World War in Europe was over.
We wandered out onto the shady street. The trees were leafing out. There was nothing going on out there, no traffic of any kind. There was only one vehicle, an abandoned wagon drawn by two horses.
Birds were talking. One bird said, ‘Poo-tee-weet?’
Things I learnt this year //
How to sew scrunchies.
That my bosses support me, even when a crazy man emails them saying that I’m the worst thing ever.
That my boyfriend loves me.
How to edit audio.
Every word of Not Throwing Away My Shot from Hamilton.
That The Macarena was a 1993 pop hit and not, as I had previously thought, a folk dance.
June // I blocked someone.
Facebook opened a new page and showed me a list: the three people I have blocked, including the newest addition. There, in the midst of my frustration, I saw a beautiful thing: those other two names, both of which I’d given barely a thought to in eight years. ‘Oh yeah,’ I murmured, ‘I guess that was a shitty, sad moment eight years ago.’ I love time and how it passes. I love knowing that one day I’ll probably come back to this list again, look at the third name and think ‘oh yeah, I guess I remember when that happened’ before getting on with the rest of my day.
This month my niece and I build a museum. We careful position toy dinosaurs on Duplo blocks, make a tiny doll’s house into a café and she writes a sign: Welcome to Museum. Like the Adelaide museum, we need a giant squid, so make one from ribbon and a blue wooden block. We suspend it in an empty glass, using a chopstick and a rubber band. I don’t know which of us is more proud.
July // My mother and I, on a couch in Adelaide.
We are studying four photos of the Beirut convent where my great-great grandmother, Thekla, was raised. Thekla was just three when her mum froze to death in a vineyard and now, here we sat, my mum and I, studying the four photos in the book for signs of what her life was: the Germanic dorm rooms, with their straight lines of identical beds, the orphan’s embroidery, the nun with her tight press lips and tighter habit.
“I hope they were kind to her, that little girl,” said mum, and we both cried a bit.
2016 resolutions //
To find what it is that I need in each project or job to do it joyously. Follow my joy. Work with joy. Articulate that joy. This actually worked wonderfully. While there were still projects I struggled to find the joy with, I did seek it out. This resolution also played a big part in how we made Contact Mic: we begun by asking what we all needed from the project in order to do it joyously and used the answers to create a work flow.
Glorify balance rather than overwork. I think I did quite well at this. I was still very busy but there were also mediation and picnics.
Love courageously. Nailed it.
Go to yoga 180 times. Did not nail it.
August // A man screams at me over the phone.
‘Who even are you anyway?’ I tell him he knows who I am. I am Fleur, we’ve met and I’m the artistic coordinator for the Academy. ‘Well that’s just a title!’ He retorts. Then, a moment later ‘so you’re the one who would be making this decision?’ Yep. So I guess it isn’t just a title. He yells some more and eventually I tell him that I will not continue the conversation and will email him with my decision. He yells ‘don’t you dare hang up on me’ as I hang up. I’m surprised by how unshaken I am.
September // A message from Liam pops up on my Facebook screen.
It tells me this isn’t Liam. That Liam is dead. Could I let people know? I write back some words – love, sympathy, thoughts – and facebook tells me that Liam sees them. But I don’t think that is true.
I write to students. I tell them Liam is dead. That he is no longer in pain. That it happened yesterday. I ask them not to post about it publicly until the family do because that’s the kind of thing you need to remind people these days. I tell them I’ll keep them posted about the funeral.
I cry a bit, a couple of short, confused sobs. I walk down the street with an empty shopping bag. I return with an empty shopping bag.
I go back and read Liam’s last message to me. Back when he really was Liam.
I’m out of hospital and the surgery went well. Unfortunately there is no good news on the cancer front, but such is life. My breathing is still a bit dodgy but slowly getting better.
Sorry I’m just really distracted by this election. I think safe schools is so important. If I had had safe schools in my school I would have been more comfortable being my authentic self earlier. I would have understood that I wasn’t alone and isolated and that there were so many people like me all around. I also don’t want to die without the right to marry. Sigh. I don’t know.
Anyway, just had to vent. Thank you so much for checking in! Very kind. I think of you often and slaughterhouse! This actually reminds me, I was going to message but forgot but wanted to say thank you for havjng me on the production. You took me as an AD despite havjng little practical experience, and I really appreciate that opportunity. I really hope I was of some help and I just felt so happy being involved with such a talented and kind creative. It was truly a beautiful and intelligent piece.
I cry a lot then. I go back to the students. I write ‘This is shit. I’m so sorry. I’ll organise flowers.’ And I do.
I drive across the city. I am hugged by beautiful, teary women and then they do their vocal warm ups and I warm up the lights and we do a show. I am drinking at the op desk, shutting my eyes between cues and taking deep breaths. I thought he had more time.
October // I go for a drive.
It is dark and the streets are almost empty. I’m actually very calm. I pull into a side street next to a Synagogue because it looks at good a street as any to sit in and be quiet. To listen to Dan Savage on the last of my phone battery, take deep breaths and try not think about the yelling and crying I left behind. My mum calls. I say it’s fine but I need to go because my battery is low. I say I’ll go home soon. Then I sit some more. Dan Savage chats on, talking sex and politics until the screen goes dark. I drive home. The next day I make an appointment to see a counsellor.
November // We cook dinner.
I shell the broad beans, he blends the hummus, I roll out the flat bread, he mixes the salad dressing. We smile a lot. We clink glasses. We eat. We finish and we drive to the opening night of a show I’ve worked on for three years. In the car I say thank you for the lovely, distracting dinner. I say let’s make this a pre-show tradition. I say really though, making art is weird. I say, but in a way I’ve already done my job and peers have already said I’ve done it pretty darn well. I say I just hope I like it. I say hold my hand, please.
2017 resolutions //
See friends on purpose and for no reason. If I have a nice conversation with someone, tell them I enjoyed it and organise to make it happen again.
Budget. Save money and then spend it going to England.
Create less waste.
December // We enter the room.
My face tries to cram thirteen different emotions on it at once. I tear up. The room is full of light, sound and finches. Perhaps fifty finches fly about, landing on beautiful, coathanger structures hung from piano wire. Each tiny landing adds to the soundscape. We sit on the blond wood floor. We watch the birds. We hold hands. We watch new people enter the room and try to cram multiple emotions onto their faces. And I feel so, so lucky for a year of sights, adventures and experiences with this man.
Ending and beginning.
I end the year with $4500 debt and a persistent Internet stalker. I also end it with a development of a new play for the State Theatre Company of South Australia locked in. I end it with 12 episodes of a podcast I have made with two of my dearest friends under my belt and 12 applications from playwrights wanting to work with Lonely Company in my inbox. I end it running Lonely Company with two of my other dearest friends. I feel very lucky in my collaborators.
I start 2017 hopeful and pretty calm. In an hour I’ll ride a bike to a New Years party and I’ll smile a lot, kiss a lot and supervise the barbecuing of haloumi and mushrooms. I’ll probably be asleep by midnight or at least 12.30. I’ll wake in the morning to a new year with old friends and maybe some new ones. And I’ll do my best.